The next several posts will be a series about my Coleman and Dwyer ancestors. I'd like to kick it off with a post devoted to my paternal grandmother, Jeanette Mary Beck. It's her maternal line that I'll discuss later in the week.
|Jeanette Mary Beck|
|Jeanette with her elder sister Margaret|
|Jeanette and Margaret with their mother, Kathleen|
|David and Jeanette as newlyweds|
|Jeanette at her first home with her husband, probably on base at Camp Pendleton|
Granny contracted polio in 1949, while pregnant with my father, her youngest child. The illness paralyzed her left arm, and she carried it in a sling for the rest of her life. True to Granny’s nature, she went on as though she had no disability, cooking large meals for the extended family in her little kitchen, hand washing all the dishes and carving the Thanksgiving turkey with an electric knife. She never complained. When meeting new people, they would invariably ask her how she’d broken her arm. Sometimes she told them the truth; sometimes she made up a crazy story. Granny was full of humor and crazy stories. Self-pity was not in her makeup.
Her children grown and out of the house, Granny decided that she wanted to travel. She wanted to see The Netherlands, where her father was born, and the rest of Europe, as well. Sadly, my grandfather had developed agoraphobia, which kept him tethered to his home for decades. Did this stop Granny? No way. She recruited friends and family members to go with her, and off she went to see the world. She came back with stories and albums of photos to share. She always encouraged me to have big dreams and go far-flung places, and she set an example by doing that herself.
There are so many more stories, from the non-traditional Christmas dishes, to the bawdy jokes and her subtle endorsement of all kinds of childhood mischief. She was a one-of-a-kind, irrepressible and irreplaceable. One of my very favorite images to conjure up in my head is that of her and my Grandpa standing in their driveway, waving goodbye to us as we drove away after a visit, calling out, “Vaya con Dios” after us. I wish I’d had more years with both of them.
|Granny (center) with family on Christmas, 2007|
Granny’s father, George Beck, was from Amsterdam. I’ve discussed him a little bit in an earlier post. Her mother, Kathleen Coleman, was from Melbourne, and it’s her family I’ll be detailing in the next several posts. Let’s just say it’s quite a story.